About Lesley

Photo of Lesley Kellas Payne

Lesley Kellas Payne is an independent fiction editor with thirty-five years’ experience in assisting writers in perfecting their craft and achieving publication. She has learned from every writer with whom she has worked, from their varied voices, unique perspectives, and committed effort. Lesley has presented workshops at writers’ conferences and through California State University, Fresno, and the University of California extension services. Her keynote workshop, “Solving the Protagonist Puzzle,” was included in The Portable Writers’ Conference.

An avid reader and student, Lesley pursues fiction, non-fiction and poetry and other interests such as psychology, Tarot, and astrology, integral in her understanding of the human psyche and so character motivation and development, which lies at the very heart of fiction. 

Having work-shopped her own writing in poetry classes led by Philip Levine, she understands how to accept and offer critique and how challenging that process can be for a writer. The relationship between writer and editor or coach is a significant one. A bond of trust must be established for a writer to fully entrust the creative product of her or his mind and spirit into another’s hands. Lesley is committed to honoring that truth in interactions with her clients and writers with whom she engages even briefly.

What Is Work? (a poem by Philip Levine)

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten paces.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to  
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,  
just because you don’t know what work is.